Biking the Mean Streets of L.A.

In Los Angeles County, bicycle-related accidents have increased in the past year. Road rage is an enormous problem, and as growing numbers of Angelinos choose bikes as transportation, clashes with motorists are on the rise. The Los Angeles Times reported in August:

Scott Sing has had a tire iron hurled at him, a water bottle thrown at his head and been bombarded with racial epithets. And all he was trying to do was ride his bike on Los Angeles city streets.

His cycling and running brethren tell similar tales — of being peppered with flying objects, cursed or otherwise assaulted — and those don’t even include the stories of near-misses and actual collisions. Such are the perils of trying to do something healthful in a city that’s not known as bike- or pedestrian-friendly.

Many like Sing, 48, who have been on the roads for years say that the hostility and congestion are getting worse, especially as traffic worsens and drivers become more distracted by cellphones and other electronic gadgets. Cyclists in particular have borne the brunt of the road rage because they most often have to share the asphalt with the four-wheeled. And, judging from the frequent shouted demands to get off the road, many drivers are unaware that cyclists have as much right to the streets as they do.

Photo: Wildbell/Flickr

  • ddartley

    “Such are the perils of trying to do something healthful….”

    Yeah, not just healthful for the person doing it, but also healthful for the destructive morons hurling the abuse.

  • The whole “why don’t you ride on the sidewalk where you belong” sentiment comes from suburbs where people are still trying to figure out why they installed them in the first place when nobody ever uses them…

  • andrew

    I was walking across the street in Burbank and was taking my time, I was jet lagged, thinking the drivers would yield. This guy in a car was so pissed he threw water at me and cursed.

    yup, drivers in LA might be the biggest A-Holes.

  • CDP

    It also looks like the Beverly Hills police department needs some education about cyclists’ rights to the road…
    Beverly Hills SUV Driver Attacks Bicyclist, Only Bicyclist Gets A Ticket

  • Thanks for the link CDP. That is an outrageous story!

  • steve

    This post inspired a strange thought. For those familiar with Asimov’s robot novels, the LA motorists are like the “spacer” colonists who have surpassed the earthers (the bicyclists) in technology and now are quarantining the bicyclists into an ever-dwindling and dilapidated infrastructure. Following the analogy, the answer is for bicyclists to re-colonize the roadways originally built for them–“take the lane”!–and transform the roadways so that they they are adapted to the needs of humans, not the needs of the technology that humans over-rely on.

  • ddartley

    Yes, that Beverly Hills story is a blood-boiling one that reaffirms my motivation to be an activist.

    And re: Steve’s #6, every time I read the phrase “take the lane,” I rejoice at cyclists’ golden future! (I realize that phrase sounds vaguely Maoist; at the moment I can’t take the time to come up with a more american sounding slogan.)

    Take the lane, my friends, and the only Critical Mass we’ll ever need is YOU, by your brave self!!

  • I love Asimov’s stuff. Timeless stories. If memory serves, humanity eventually evolves into two races – the Earthly urbanites that eventually leapfrog the Spacers and settle the entire galaxy and the sedentary original Spacers that colonized the planets around Earth and just stayed put – living longer and but very solitary provincial lives.

  • psycholist

    Given the current political climate I’d go with a phrase like “spreading democracy on the street” instead of “take the lane” or else you’ll wind up on a gov’t watchlist.

  • In L.A., everything that can be done to accomodate automobiles has been done (or at least given a few good tries). We have a system of local government (in the City of L.A.) that has been ignoring the city’s own best interests of its residents for decades.

    On our streets, the “Level Of Service” (LOS) is king – it trumps every planning effort, revitalization attempt, or safety concern.

    Fortunately, cyclists in this region are finding each other over the internet, and we’re taking matters into our own hands.

    We have three bicycle collective repair shops, dozens of social rides every week, and a nascent bicycle advocacy community that is growing quickly.

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